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The Man Behind The Uniform

April 12, 2012, 6:57 AM by Kellee Azar

The Man Behind The Uniform
Ron 'RJ' Johnson


Ron Johnson was more than a correctional officer and more than a name in the case. Over the past year, we have learned many things about who 'RJ' was as a person outside of the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

Just more than six months after he was killed, Johnson's family took the stand in the sentencing hearings for the men who killed him.  Their testimony shed light on the man many call "courageous;" the man many say was exactly what every correctional officer should be.

In October 2011, Johnson's own family spoke out for the first time in court, presenting a personal picture of who Correctional Officer Ron Johnson was outside of that fateful day at the State Penitentiary.

It quickly became clear through the testimony of Johnson's son that he was the type of father who was there for anything and everything.

"He was there; he was always there.  He wouldn't miss any thing for the world.  It didn't have to be a wedding day, it didn't have to be practice, it could have been a game; he didn't miss anything," Jesse Johnson said.

This is, perhaps, why the person who may miss Johnson the most is his wife, Lynette.

"Ron and I were together for 34 years.  And out of those 34 years we only spent six nights apart," Lynette Johnson said.

Yet the man, who came to represent the strength of the state's correctional system, was not the kind of father to be feared by his children. Instead, his son says his father was a role model.

"I lost the guy I looked up to the most, the guy I could call and talk to, the guy that I could just sit right next to and be completely comfortable," Jesse said.

Whether at work or at home, it's evident that everyone respected Ron Johnson. He even received respect from those he was trained to watch.

"He wears his uniform proud and is respected by inmates and coworkers," Lynette said.

But every day life will never be the same for any of the Johnsons.

"We don't do that any more; this has taken away my mom from us. She came to one game this year, since this has happened. She was there about 5 minutes. I know Dad's there, but mom isn't," Johnson's daughter Toni Schafer said.

However, it is clear through Ron Johnson's family that he will live on forever.

"I miss him," Toni said.

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